Two bills criminalizing the practice of female genital mutilation are competing for support in the Legislature.

Lawmakers fell just one vote short of criminalizing the practice in 2017, amid concerns that state and federal law already made the practice illegal and because the topic has been widely used to demonize immigrants or refugees from predominately Muslim countries in Africa.

One of the new bills, backed by Republican Gov. Paul LePage, has also drawn the support of a local chapter of an anti-Muslim hate group in the United States, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which was calling attention to the bill and denouncing the group's support Tuesday.

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